As a creative firm, we get a fair amount of companies and organizations who come to us stating they want a new brand when really what they want is a new or updated logo or identity design. Your logo is not the same as your brand. It will not tell your story.
Your brand is the perceptions and notions formed about your company. Your brand is everything you do. It is the promised experience you make to your customers. It is the emotional connection you make with your audience. It is your values and beliefs. Your brand is your message. It is your strategy and your customer service, your language, and your employees. The quality of your product or service is your brand.
“This [brand] perception is the culmination of logo, visual identity program, messages, products, services, and actions. A designer cannot “make” a brand. Only the audience can do this. The designer forms the foundation of the message with the logo and identity system.” (Logo Design by Adams Morioka, Rockport Press, 2004)
You can build a swanky new facility, whether its a dance studio or a retail store, fill it with expensive fixtures and the latest technology, but if the staff is dressed sloppily and/or communicates poorly, then that becomes your brand. If a customer is on hold for too long or gets lost in a voicemail tree, that is your brand. If you purchase a dazzling new sign, but it hangs crooked, guess what? That will be your brand.
In other words, buying a big hat doesn’t make you a cowboy.
Think of Apple. Apple’s brand of humanistic culture, corporate responsibility, volunteerism, and emotional connection is reflected in everything they do, from the layout of their retail outlets to the curves on the new IPad 2. They emphasize that technology should empower people and that design can be simple, beautiful, and functional. There exist raging debates about its products, but no other company inspires fierce brand loyalty in the way that Apple does.
On the other hand, a logo is a visual symbol of a company. Its purpose is as an identifier, and it should be reflective of your brand. It is often the first message potential customers received about your organization and is a powerful form of recognition ( just ask The Gap ). Metaphorically, if your company is a book, then your logo is the cover. If crafted correctly, it conveys certain attributes about your company, i.e, strength, creativity, longevity, stability, etc. It is a part of your overall identity. For these reasons, your logo is quite important. And in order to be truly effective, your logo should be simple, memorable, timeless, versatile, and appropriate.
It is easy to get lost in industry jargon where terms such as branding, identity, logomark, and various others are used interchangeably. But taking the time to understand the differences is crucial and may very well save you a lot of time and aggravation down the line.